Friday, April 13, 2012

Memories of Epping and Our Grocery Store

Back in 3rd grade at Epping Public School, our music teacher, Mr. Langseth, taught us a song Ive never forgotten. "I love those dear hearts and gentle people, that live in my home town." It was my favorite song to sing because it reminded me of all the nice people around me.
I grew up in Epping ND a small town with a population of about 90 people in the 1980's. 
Here is the Epping Website.

I'm proud to be able to say I grew up in such a small town. Somtimes as adults we tend to look back on our childhoods through rose colored glasses. We remember what we liked best. But I'm not so naive to think that it was all roses and rainbows for everyone. There were families in town, and kids who didn't have it as easy as I did, and I do remember some scary accidents and fires. But most of the things I remember from that time are good things, which shows that my parents did a good job of sheltering us a bit and letting us be kids.  We didn't seem to have a care in the world.

Our house didn't have air conditioning, but it didn't matter as we played outside all summer anyway. We ate picnic lunch at Bible School, and rode our bikes on cracking sidewalks. At school we played "fox and geese" in the winter snow and marbles in the spring dirt. We played on the hot, metal slide at the school playground (how we didn't end up with 2nd degree burns is beyond me).
On Halloween we'd stop at each and every house because we knew everyone, and people gave away homemade treats like popcorn balls. Mr. and Mrs. Marrow, who lived on the outskirts of town, always gave us silver dollars on Halloween. (I still have mine).
We walked down the alley to Grandma's house and went through a white picket gate. We grew gardens, caught rain in pots for my mother's plants and caught snakes. 
Growing up in Epping in the 1980's was almost like growing up in some kind of mid-century "time-warp" (but in a good way). We had museums full of antiques. We knew our neighbors, and had a gas station attendant that would come out of the garage to fill our car with gas and wipe our windows. We had a post office with antique boxes that opened with a two-knob combination, and if you were too little to reach the mail box the post master would just smile and give you your mail right threw the window.  We had a small-town grocery store with a kind husband and wife team behind the counter. 

As a child I can remember walking the 2 long blocks to The Friendly Village Market.  At that time it was owned by Lyle and Dorothy Westphal.  I remember how patient he would be when my brother and I would bring our 35 cents up to the candy counter and would take such a long time to decide what kind of candy to buy.  If I recall, when you first walked in through the door, a screen door that had a screen door "slam" to it, you'd see the first aisle that ran in front of the large, west windows.  This is where the softener salt was kept along with the dog food, cat food, soap and household type of supplies.  There was a display shelf of greeting cards in the center of the store and a large grate in the floor that was for heating, as the furnace was in the basement.  There was a small case with jewelery and in it was a beautiful butterfly necklace made with different colored rhinestones.  I wanted it so badly and I remember my Grandma Henderson bought it for me on one of her visits to Epping.  I still have it.  I remember there was a cooler on the east end of the store that had ice cream treats in it. 
But what I remember most was the long counter with it's cash register and the wall of candy behind it.

Here is a link to a site called Two Wheel Journal written by bicyclists who traveled through Epping and had nice things to say about it.  I'm glad they enjoyed their time in Epping.
I'm borrowing their picture of the building that I remember as the "Friendly Village Market"
This is the building as it stands today.  I hope someone is working to restore it. 
Here is the building long ago, possibly when it was a hardware store.

Here is another picture of the store with newer sidewalks.  I like the sign.  But I do not know what that metal looking box on a pedestal is.  Any guesses?
Here is some information about the Friendly Village Market from my Dad. 
He said that once upon a time, a long time ago, the upstairs room was used to show Model Ts.  They had a hoist- type of contraption that would lift the cars up to the top floor.  The building was also at one time owned by Fern Miller and a portion of the building was used as a Pool Hall.  I remember reading in The Wonder of Williams books that the Fern Miller family had triplets but none of them survived.  They are buried in the Epping Cemetery and their names are Faith, Hope, and Charity.  I remember seeing their little headstone at the Epping Cemetery and thinking about how sad that would've been for the parents. 
The building was sold to a man named Beachler and he owned a hardware store.  There was another hardware store across the street to the south.  After BeachlerWestphal bought the building and continued to keep it as the town's grocery store. 
My dad remembers when he was young he had a paper route, and after he'd picked up his stack of Minot Daily papers at the post office, he'd ride across the street on his bike and pick up a pack of Reese's Peanut Butter cups.  He says it got to the point where he'd just walk through the door and Mr. Westphal would toss him a pack. 
In the basement was the furnace which was at first heated with coal.  Both Mr. Jacobson and Mr. Westphal would have to bank the furnace well before heading home on winter nights to prevent the store from freezing. 
The cash register was at the left end of the counter (left from the customer's perspective) and Dad says there was a large roll of paper and ball of twine to wrap items in.
There was a cooler at the end of the counter with hamburger and fruits and veggies in it and then the ice cream in another smaller cooler.  There was shelving that ran East to West that held canned goods and box mixes, etc.  Mr. Westphal was one of the first to have JELL-O boxed cheesecake mix (November 1966 is when this was introduced) on his shelves in our area.  They were kept on the first row, top shelf.  He'd always try to stock the latest products such as Life Cereal.  If a few customers liked it, he'd keep stocking it.

I remember that store fondly as well as it's owners.  I believe there is a story about my Dad "liquor-treating" one year and Mr. Westphal giving him Scope???  That's another day and phone call, Dad.

Here is an old receipt from the Friendly Village Market from the year 1983.  Apparently my folks would run a "tab" and pay a few times a month.  Apparently we bought quite a few treats there. 

Have a Happy Day!

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